Latest Ukraine updates: Talks spur deal on humanitarian corridors

Ukraine-Russia news from March 3: Kyiv and Moscow agree on plan for safe corridors to evacuate civilians.

Russian and Ukrainian officials take part in the talks in the Brest region, Belarus
Russian and Ukrainian officials take part in the talks in the Brest region, Belarus, March 3, 2022 [Maxim Guchek/BelTA/Handout via Reuters]
  • A second round of talks between Kyiv and Moscow has ended, with the two sides agreeing on a tentative plan to create a humanitarian corridor.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin says operations in Ukraine were going to plan.
  • Russian troops have seized control of Kherson, in Ukraine’s south.
  • Several other cities, including the capital, Kyiv, northeastern Kharkiv and Mariupol, in the southeast, continue to be attacked.
  • President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Ukraine’s defence lines are holding.
  • The United Nations says more than one million people have fled Ukraine amid Russia’s assault.

INTERACTIVE Russia-Ukraine map Who controls what in Ukraine DAY 8

The live blog is now closed; thank you for joining us. Here are the updates for March 3:

Senegal calls Ukraine embassy war recruitment post illegal

Senegal’s foreign ministry has condemned as illegal a Facebook post by Ukraine’s embassy that called for Senegalese volunteers to join its fight against Russia, Reuters reported.

Recruitment of volunteers, mercenaries and other foreign fighters is illegal in Senegal and punishable by law, the ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Ukrainian ambassador Yurii Pyvovarov was summoned to the ministry to explain the post, it added. Ukrainian officials have made similar calls in other countries.

US Treasury vows to impose ‘massive costs’ on Putin’s confidants

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has vowed to impose “massive costs” on Russian elites in Putin’s inner circle after Washington announced sanctions on several Russian “oligarchs” as well as Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov.

“Today, across the US government and in coordination with partners and allies, we are demonstrating our commitment to impose massive costs on Putin’s closest confidants and their family members and freeze their assets in response to the brutal attack on Ukraine,” Yellen said in a statement.

Click here to read more on Thursday’s sanctions.

Germany’s Scholz calls for ceasefire

A ceasefire and further negotiations for a retreat of Russian troops from Ukraine are urgently needed to help de-escalate the situation in the country, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says.

“However unrealistic this may seem right now, we must not fail to try to do that,” the chancellor told the German ZDF broadcaster on Thursday. “What is going on right now is a war against the Ukrainian people.”

Russian forces head toward Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant: Local mayor

The mayor of the Ukrainian town of Energodar said a column of Russian troops was headed toward the nearby Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, late on Thursday.

Earlier, the Ukrainian authorities reported that Russian troops were stepping up efforts to seize the plant in southeast Ukraine and had entered Energodar with tanks.

“Loud shots can be heard in the town,” said Mayor Dmytro Orlov in an online post.

Chernobyl staff facing ‘moral exhaustion’

The United Nations’ atomic watchdog says Ukraine has informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that staff who have been kept at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant since Russian troops took control of the site a week ago are facing “psychological pressure and moral exhaustion”.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said the staff must be allowed to rest and rotate so their crucial work can be carried out safely and securely.

Grossi received “a joint appeal from the Ukraine Government, regulatory authority and the national operator which added that personnel at the Chernobyl site ‘have limited opportunities to communicate, move and carry out full-fledged maintenance and repair work’”, the IAEA said in a statement.

US senators propose ban on Russian oil imports

A bipartisan group of US senators has introduced legislation that would ban all oil imports to the US from Russia.

“Energy has been weaponised. We have the ability to counter that weapon,” said Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who is part of a group calling on the Biden administration to boost US domestic oil production.

The proposal, titled the “Ban Russian Energy Imports Act”, also has the support of the top leader in the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.

But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at an earlier media briefing that White House officials opposed blocking Russian oil imports because it would raise fuel prices for Americans.

Start Here: Who is Volodymyr Zelenskyy?

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has become the face of Ukraine’s defiance against Russia’s invasion.

Who is he? And what impact is his leadership having?

Plane carrying Russian nationals held in Canada: Minister

Canada’s transport minister has said a charter aircraft carrying Russian foreign nationals is being held at Yellowknife airport in the Northwest Territories.

“We will continue to hold Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine,” Omar Alghabra tweeted.

Lions and tigers driven out of Ukraine to safety in Polish zoo

A truck carrying six lions, six tigers, two caracals and an African wild dog from a sanctuary east of Kyiv reached Poland on Thursday after a two-day drive to escape the Russian invasion, a Polish zoo official said.

The owner of the sanctuary had asked for help from Poznan zoo in western Poland to get the animals to safety.

“They had to go a long way around to avoid Zhytomyr and other bombardment zones. They had to turn back many times, because all the roads were blown up, full of holes, impossible to pass with such cargo, which is why it took so long,” said Poznan zoo spokesperson Malgorzata Chodyla.

PHOTOS: Ukrainians flee to Romania to escape Russia’s invasion

Since Russian forces launched an attack on February 24, more than one million people have fled Ukraine, as per the UNHCR.

According to Romania’s Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca, as of Thursday morning, 118,461 Ukrainian refugees had entered neighbouring Romania. Many passed through to other countries, but Ciuca said at least 46,435 remain in Romania.

At the border crossing in Isaccea, some arrived in Romania on foot, pushing trollers or baby buggies, others managed to pass in their cars, packing the little they could take in their escape from war.

See the picture gallery here.

Crossing the river that separates war from peace
A number of Ukrainians are seen travelling with their pets [Ioana Moldovan/Al Jazeera]

US sanctions target Russian elites, Putin’s spokesperson

The White House has announced additional sanctions on several wealthy elites from Putin’s inner circle, including the Russian president’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov.

The sanctions, which include visa restrictions and seizure of assets, target 19 “oligarchs” and 47 of their family members, the US administration said on Thursday, adding that the measures are taken in coordination with allies.

“One of the elites is Alisher Burhanovich Usmanov, one of Russia’s wealthiest individuals and a close ally of Putin,” the White House said in a statement.

“His property will be blocked from use in the United States and by US persons – including his superyacht, one of the world’s largest, and just seized by our ally Germany, and his private jet, one of Russia’s largest privately-owned aircraft.”

It added that penalties will also target Peskov, whom the White House described as “a top purveyor of Putin’s propaganda”.

US-Russia militaries create communication line

The Pentagon has established a direct line of communications with Russia’s Ministry of Defence to prevent “miscalculation, military incidents and escalation” in the region as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine advances, a US official told Reuters.

“The Department of the Defense recently established a de-confliction line with the Russian Ministry of Defence on March 1 for the purposes of preventing miscalculation, military incidents, and escalation,” a senior US defence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A member of the territorial defence force guards a checkpoint in Kyiv
A member of the Territorial Defence Forces guards a checkpoint [Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters]

Canada raising tariffs on Russia, Belarus over ‘barbaric war’

Canada is stripping Russia and Belarus of their status as “most favoured nation” trading partners in response to ongoing Russian attacks on Ukraine.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday morning, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the move means that all Russian and Belarusian exports to Canada will now be subjected to a 35 percent tariff.

Read more here.

Aid organisations need access in Ukraine: USAID head

The head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) says humanitarian access to Ukrainian population centres is needed to deliver aid.

Speaking virtually at the German Marshall Fund, Samantha Power said humanitarian aid is already being stockpiled for delivery near Ukraine’s border.

“The big issue of modern conflict – as you know in places like Syria, Yemen, elsewhere and Ethiopia most dramatically – is access,” Power said.

Read more here.

Kyiv, Moscow agree on corridors to evacuate civilians: Ukraine

Ukraine and Russia have agreed to create humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians in the second round of talks since Moscow invaded last week, a top Ukrainian official said.

“The second round of talks is over. Unfortunately, Ukraine does not have the results it needs yet. There are decisions only on the organisation of humanitarian corridors,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Russian chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky also confirmed the news of agreement of the corridors and a possible ceasefire around them, describing the talks as “substantial progress”.

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a damaged logistic center after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a damaged logistic centre after shelling in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 3, 2022 [Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo]

Russia is offering safe corridors: Putin

The Russian president says its military has offered safe corridors to civilians to allow them to leave areas of fighting in Ukraine.

Speaking in a video call with members of his Security Council, Putin alleged Ukrainian nationalist groups are preventing civilians from leaving.

The Russian leader said the groups were also using civilians as shields, taking up firing positions to provoke the Russian retaliatory fire. Putin’s claim could not be independently verified.

Putin says Russian operation in Ukraine is going to plan

The Russian president has said Russia’s military operations in Ukraine were going according to plan and praised its soldiers as heroes.

“I want to say that the special military operation is going strictly according to schedule, according to plan,” Putin said, opening a meeting with his security council.

“We are at war with neo-Nazis,” the Russian leader said, adding: “I will never give up on my conviction that Russians and Ukrainians are one people.”

Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari speaking from Moscow said it was clear Putin wanted to deliver a strong message,  “a united front to the Russian public”.

“The president … made the statements really trying to convince the Russian population that things are absolutely going according to plan, reiterating that narrative that they are fighting, a good fight in Ukraine, and they are doing it for the security of their own country,” she added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with the head of Russia's Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs
Russian President Vladimir Putin [Mikhail Klimentyev /Sputnik/AFP]

Ukraine believes Belarusian troops receive order to cross border

The Ukrainian military has said it believes Belarusian troops have received the order to cross the Ukrainian border.

Ukraine has said Russia is using Belarusian territory for missile attacks on Ukrainian cities and Minsk allowed Russian troops to enter Ukrainian territory.

Bosnians relive past war trauma as Russia invades Ukraine

For those who survived the Bosnian war of 1992-95, the war in Ukraine has brought back painful memories and renewed worries for the future.

Read more here.

If Ukraine falls, Baltic states ‘next’, Zelenskyy warns

Ukraine’s president has called on Western powers to deliver more military aid to his country, warning that Russia’s military will not stop at Ukraine’s borders if Moscow seizes full control.

“If you do not have the power to close the skies, then give me planes,” Zelenskyy said at a news conference, referring to refusals from Kyiv’s Western allies to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

“If we [Ukraine] are no more then, God forbid, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia will be next,” he added.

Ukraine’s emergency service says 22 killed in Chernihiv air raids

Ukraine’s emergency service says at least 22 people have been killed in Russian air raids in Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv region.

The service said in a post on Twitter that rescue work was ongoing. It did not specify where the alleged attack took place.

Earlier, the regional governor said at least nine people had been killed in an air raid on two schools and private houses.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify either claim.

Dozens of OSCE states back mission to probe possible war crimes

Forty-five of the 57 Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) member states are triggering a system to set up a mission of experts looking into possible war crimes by Russia in Ukraine, the United Kingdom has said.

“They are invoking the so-called ‘OSCE Moscow Mechanism’ to set up a mission of independent experts to … establish the facts and circumstances of possible cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including due to deliberate and indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure,” the UK’s mission to the OSCE said.

Russia and Ukraine are both members of the body.

People are seen carrying belongings out of a residential building destroyed by shelling
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked a major humanitarian crisis [File: Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters]

Second round of Ukraine-Russia talks under way

A second round of negotiations between delegations from Russia and Ukraine has begun.

The meeting is reportedly taking place in Brest, southwestern Belarus.

It comes after a first round of talks held at the Ukraine-Belarus border on Monday ended with no agreement except to keep talking.

Ukrainian negotiator Davyd Arakhamia said on Facebook that Kyiv plans to discuss setting up humanitarian corridors before moving on to other issues during the latest bout of discussions.

Russia’s TV Rain says it is temporarily halting work

Russian television channel Dozhd, or TV Rain, is temporarily halting its work, its chief executive officer has said.

The move comes after the channel, one of the last remaining critical media outlets in the country, had its website blocked earlier this week amid a tightening of restrictions on reporting by the Kremlin amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“We need strength to … understand how we can work from here. We really hope that we will return to broadcasting and continue our work,” Natalia Sindeeva, TV Rain’s general director, said in a statement.

Hours earlier, the editor of Echo of Moscow said the radio station had been dissolved by its board.

Read more on the Kremlin’s intense squeeze on domestic reporting of its war here.

France’s Macron tells Putin he is making a ‘major mistake’: Report

President Emmanuel Macron has warned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that he is making a “major mistake” in Ukraine and that his government’s actions will cost Russia dearly over the long term, according to a French official cited by the Reuters news agency.

During talks by phone allegedly initiated by Putin, Macron also told the Russian president that he was deluding himself about the government in Kyiv, the unnamed French presidential adviser said.

Moscow has dismissed Zelenskyy’s administration as undemocratic, despite him having been elected with 73 percent of the vote in a 2019 presidential election.

“There was nothing in what President Putin said that could reassure us,” the adviser told Reuters, adding that Putin had reiterated his “narrative” that he was seeking the “de-Nazification of Ukraine”.

“You are lying to yourself,” Macron told Putin, the official said. “‘It will cost your country dearly, your country will end up isolated, weakened and under sanctions for a very long time,” the French leader allegedly added.

Ukrainian parliament approves asset seizure bill

Ukraine’s parliament has approved a bill to allow the seizure of assets or property in Ukraine owned by Russia or Russian citizens.

Under the law, the government can suggest which assets to confiscate to the Security Council, which must then give its approval for their transfer to state ownership.

No breakthrough expected at upcoming talks: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from the city of Lviv, in western Ukraine, says there is little hope the upcoming second round of talks will produce any agreement on ending the war.

“If anything there has been an escalation since they last met on Monday, [and] on that occasion they begged to differ massively on the issues, there was no common ground,” Simmons said.

“Some sort of move towards a confidence-building measure would be probably the best possible outcome of these talks right now,” he added.

“There is a call from Ukraine to prioritise a ceasefire but the problem is Russia is saying that they wish to demilitarise Ukraine, and really that stops any dialogue progressing, so it is hard to see how they will come out of this round of talks with any form of real progress.”

Germany welcoming Ukrainian refugees

Berlin has pledged to “quickly and unbureaucratically” help Ukrainians fleeing war.

More than 5,000 refugees from Ukraine have already arrived in Germany, and preparations are being made to welcome tens of thousands more yet.

Read more here.

Volunteers are seen at Berlin's central train station
Volunteers have set up stations at Berlin’s central train station where refugees can get essential supplies [Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters]

Aid chief calls for immediate ceasefire

The secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council has called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, saying aid workers cannot “save lives under a hail of bombs and grenades”.

“We cannot come to the relief of vulnerable communities engulfed by war when our aid workers are in bomb shelters and fleeing from attacks,” Jan Egeland said in a statement.

“Millions are now in front-line locations. With empty shops, overwhelmed healthcare, and no electricity or safe water, local and international aid groups on the ground must urgently resume our work,” he added, before warning of “mounting numbers of civilian casualties across the country”.

“The madness must stop. The men who started this war sit in safe and comfortable offices. They can end it today and resume meaningful political talks. Defenceless civilians are paying the highest price for their senseless war.”

Regional governor says nine killed after Russian air raid in Chernihiv

At least nine people have been killed and four others wounded after a Russian air raid hit two schools and private houses in Chernihiv, according to the region’s governor.

“Rescue work is ongoing. According to the state emergency services, there are for now nine people killed and four wounded,” Viacheslav Chaus said on the Telegram messaging app.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify Chaus’s claim.

Ukrainian, Russian officials trade barbs at UN Human Rights Council meeting

Ukraine’s first deputy foreign minister has accused Russian troops of carrying out acts tantamount to war crimes in her country and called for perpetrators to be held accountable.

“Recent events clearly point to the fact that the Russian troops fighting in Ukraine carry out the most blatant violations and abuses of human rights, systematically engage in acts that clearly amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Emine Dzhaparova told an urgent debate at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“We must stand together to ensure accountability for the war criminals spilling the blood of Ukrainian children.”

Gennady Gatilov, Russia’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, later said Moscow saw no “added value” in the debate and denounced Ukraine’s government as a “criminal regime”.

Central bank governor says Ukraine’s financial system remains resilient

Ukraine’s central bank governor Kyrylo Shevchenko says the country’s banking and financial system has remained resilient and been boosted by international financial support amounting to around $15bn.

“The national bank is doing everything necessary to ensure the continuity of both non-cash and cash payments and the smooth functioning of the banking system of the state under martial law,” Shevchenko said in a news briefing.

Mariupol’s mayor claims Russian forces are trying to blockade the city

Russian forces are trying to create a blockade around Mariupol and are attacking rail links to prevent civilians from evacuating the key port city, its mayor has said.

“The invaders are systematically and methodically trying to blockade the city of Mariupol,” Vadym Boichenko said in a video broadcast.

Constant attacks over the past 24 hours have cut off water and power supplies and the local authorities need a ceasefire to restore power, he added.

UN rights chief warns tens of millions in ‘potentially mortal danger’

Tens of millions of people in Ukraine are in “potentially mortal danger” amid Russia’s offensive, the UN’s human rights chief has warned.

Opening an urgent debate at the UN Human Rights Council, which is considering setting up a commission of inquiry into alleged human rights violations by Moscow, Michelle Bachelet called for an immediate halt to hostilities.

“My staff in Ukraine have been contacted by several groups who fear persecution if Russian troops advance, including members of the Crimean Tatar community in mainland Ukraine, as well as prominent human rights defenders and journalists,” she said.

Second round of Ukraine-Russia talks to be held today, Ukrainian official says

A Ukrainian delegation will meet with Russian officials later today for a second round of negotiations, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak has said.

Podolyak confirmed in a statement online that the Ukrainian delegation was on its way to the discussions via helicopter.

Podolyak’s remarks came after the Belarusian state news agency, Belta, quoted chief Russian negotiator Vladimir Medinsky as saying the second round of talks would start in the coming hours.

The first round of discussions, held at the Ukraine-Belarus border on Monday, ended with no agreement except to keep talking.

ICC prosecutor says team has been dispatched to begin work in Ukraine investigation

An advance team from the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has been dispatched to begin investigating possible war crimes in Ukraine, its top prosecutor has told the Reuters news agency.

The team’s departure comes hours after Prosecutor Karim Khan announced he would start collecting evidence as part of a formal investigation into the war.

“Yesterday I formulated a team and today they are moving to the region,” Khan told Reuters.

He added his office would be examining possible war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide by all parties in the conflict.

‘Her name was Katia’: Husband mourns wife killed in Zhytomyr strikes

Oleg Rubak’s wife was killed when Russian missile strikes hit near their family home in Zhytomyr, a city west of Kyiv, on Tuesday night.

“She was 29 years old. One minute I saw her going into the bedroom, a minute later there was nothing,” Rubak told the AFP news agency.

Read his full account here.

Oleg Rubak, 32, a local engineer who lost his wife Katia, 29, in the shelling, stands on the rubble of his house in Zhytomyr on March 02, 2022, after it was destroyed by a Russian bombing the day before. - The shelling killed at least 3 people and injured nearly 20 according to locals and local authorities, destroyed a local market and at least 10 houses on March 01, 2022.
Rubak, 32, stands on the rubble of his house in Zhytomyr, which sits 150km (93 miles) west of Kyiv [Emmanuel Duparcq/AFP]

ASEAN urges end to ‘military hostilities’ in Ukraine

Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have called for an immediate end to what they called military hostilities in Ukraine, saying they believe there is “still room for a peaceful dialogue”.

In a joint statement that made no mention of Russia, ASEAN’s top diplomats said they stood ready to facilitate negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow, in any possible way.

Their statement added they were “deeply troubled by the intensifying gravity” of the situation.

ASEAN has 10 member states: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Kuleba says Putin has ‘no chance of winning’, highlights Zaporizhzhia plant workers

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has called Moscow’s military onslaught a “People’s War for Ukraine”, highlighting an image of Ukrainian civilians blocking Russian troops from accessing the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in the southeastern city of Enerhodar as evidence of the country’s resolve.

“This is a true People’s War for Ukraine. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has no chance of winning it,” Kuleba tweeted.

Footage posted online on Wednesday appeared to show that dozens of local residents and workers at the plant, the largest of its kind in Europe, had barred access to the facility as Russian forces advanced in the region.

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Moscow had on Monday informed Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi that Russian military forces had taken control of the territory around the plant.

As of Thursday lunchtime, it was not immediately clear if the facility was still being blocked, or who was in control of the site.

‘Violence increasing every hour’: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from the city of Lviv, in western Ukraine, says there has been “no let-up in the scale of the violence” as Russia’s assault enters its second week.

“In fact it is increasing every hour, it would seem,” Simmons said.

“[The capture of] Kherson marks the first city in Ukraine to fall to the Russians and in doing so, it has devastated some level of morale [there],” he added.

“Ukrainian forces are nowhere to be seen in the city … [and] further down the coast, in Mariupol, the situation is just extraordinary.

“There is no food, no water, no fuel and very little hope for people [there]. Some were getting out at the last minute as convoys with tanks came the other way. But there are awful scenes from the city and the pressure on local hospitals is intense. There has been just no sparing of anything in the way the city has been shelled.”

Paramedics are see moving a patient in Mariupol
Moscow claims it is only targeting military infrastructure, but reports from the ground suggest a mounting civilian death toll [File: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP]

Zelenskyy adviser says Ukrainian forces counter-attacking

Ukrainian troops are launching counter-attacks against invading Russian forces even as they defend the country from Moscow’s offensive, a military adviser to Zelenskyy has said.

“Help to us is increasing every minute and the strength of the enemy is decreasing every minute. We’re not only defending but also counter-attacking,” the adviser said in a televised briefing.

Russian foreign minister claims Moscow ‘looking after its own security interests’

Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from Moscow, says Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is adamant that Moscow is “looking after its own security interests” amid its invasion of Ukraine.

“He said the world was listening to Russia but he was not sure if it is hearing what the Russians are saying,” Jabbari said, citing comments Lavrov made during an online interview with Russian and foreign media.

“[And] he was adamant about his country’s position – that they are really under threat from neighbouring countries that are part of NATO,” she added.

Jabbari said that Lavrov made clear Russia was “still very much open to the idea of dialogue with NATO as well as the United States”, despite ties between Moscow and the West plunging to new lows over Moscow’s actions.

UK foreign secretary calls for blanket SWIFT ban on Russian banks

The United Kingdom’s foreign secretary has called for no Russian bank to have access to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) global payments system, calling on the United States, European Union and Group of Seven (G7) group of industrialised nations to “go further” with restrictive measures.

“We worked with the US the EU and G7 to cut off funding for Putin’s war machine,” Liz Truss told a news conference during a visit to Lithuania.

“[But] We need to go further. We must strive that all Russian banks are disconnected from SWIFT, we must dare to refuse energy imports from Russia to Europe,” she added.

Russia aims to stop Ukraine from joining NATO, Lavrov says

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said Moscow’s attack on Ukraine is aimed, among other things, at ensuring that its neighbour does not join the NATO transatlantic military alliance.

Lavrov told Russian state television that the country’s forces were attacking military targets but added that the term “collateral damage” has been in use since military campaigns waged by Washington and its Western allies in Iraq and Libya.

He added that Western powers were aware of Moscow’s concerns and said they would have to address them at some point, before referring to sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion as a “tax on independence”.

INTERACTIVE- NATO members in Europe expand eastwards

Kremlin hails Russian troops as ‘heroes’

The Kremlin has praised Russian troops fighting in Ukraine as “heroes” who will go down in history alongside the soldiers who defeated Nazi Germany in World War II.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made the remarks at a news briefing during which he also dismissed reports that Moscow may be planning to introduce martial law. Peskov said Putin will hold a security council meeting later today.

On Wednesday, Moscow said that 498 Russian troops had been killed in Ukraine and 1,597 others wounded as it announced its own death toll for the first time. Zelenskyy on Thursday said about 9,000 Russian troops had been killed.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify either of the figures provided.

‘We are being destroyed’: Mariupol city council

Mariupol’s city council says Russian forces are constantly and deliberately shelling critical civilian infrastructure there, leaving the city without water, heating or power and preventing the shipment of supplies or the evacuation of people.

“They are breaking food supplies, setting us up in a blockade, as in the old Leningrad,” the council said in a statement.

“Deliberately, for seven days, they have been destroying the city’s critical life-support infrastructure. We have no light, water or heat again.”

The council said it was seeking to create a humanitarian corridor for the city, as well as trying to restore infrastructure.

“We are being destroyed as a nation. This is genocide of Ukrainian people,” it said.

Zelenskyy says defence lines holding against Russian attacks

Ukraine’s defence lines are holding amid Russia’s multipronged assault, the country’s president says.

In his latest video address, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said there had been no respite in Moscow’s shelling of his country since midnight.

But he pointed to Russia’s alleged shelling of civilian areas in several key cities as proof Ukraine had been successful in resisting the Kremlin’s initial plan of claiming a quick victory through a land assault.

“We have nothing to lose but our own freedom,” Zelenskyy said, adding Ukraine was receiving daily arms supplies from its international allies.

Photos: Shelling continues in Ukraine as Russian forces advance

Several Ukrainian cities have been pounded by Russian attacks in recent days.

Moscow claims it is only targeting military infrastructure, but reports from the ground suggest a mounting civilian death toll.

Take a look here.

Why is Kherson strategically important?

Kherson, strategically located at the mouth of the Dnieper River’s exit into the Black Sea, is the first significant urban centre to fall since Moscow launched its invasion.

Control of the city, which is home to about 300,000 people, is important because it could allow Moscow to mass troops there and use it as a launching post to push its forces further inland.

Russian military hardware is seen moving along a street
Kherson is strategically located at the mouth of the Dnieper River’s exit into the Black Sea [Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images]

China says more than 3,000 of its citizens have left Ukraine

More than 3,000 Chinese citizens have been safely relocated from Ukraine to neighbouring countries amid Russia’s offensive, the country’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Wang Wenbin has told a daily news briefing.

Unlike many countries, China did not tell its roughly 6,000 citizens in Ukraine to leave the country in the days leading up to Moscow’s incursion. Instead, Beijing announced evacuation plans soon after the assault had begun.

Scramble to exit Kyiv becoming ‘ever more desperate’: AJE correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from Lviv, says Western intelligence reports suggest Russia’s enormous military convoy near Kyiv has “stalled”.

“Nevertheless it is still there, its progress will no doubt continue and the people in Kyiv will be very aware that it is coming as the scramble to get out of the city becomes ever more desperate,” Hull said.

Elsewhere in the country, he added, Kharkiv had been under continued bombardment overnight and Kherson had “conclusively fallen” under the control of Russian forces.

“And, of course, the other major flashpoint now is Mariupol, to the east of Kherson … which is encircled and has endured appalling, constant hours of bombardment,” Hull said.

“The deputy mayor there is talking about a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding; he said the Russians are using artillery, multiple launch rocket systems, air strikes and tactical rocket attacks on the city,” Hull added.

“The city is said to be cut off from heat, electricity and mobile and internet connectivity, so it’s really increasingly difficult to know what exactly is going on [there].”

UK says Russian convoy ‘delayed by staunch resistance’

The miles-long Russian military convoy north of Kyiv remains more than 30km (18 miles) from the capital as a result of it having been delayed by “staunch Ukrainian resistance” and logistical issues, the United Kingdom’s defence ministry says.

“The column has made little discernible progress in over three days,” the ministry said in an intelligence update.

It added that the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol remain in Ukrainian control, despite intense Russian shelling.

Multiple explosions rock the capital

At least four major blasts were heard in Kyiv in the early hours of this morning, with footage shared on social media showing the night sky lit up by explosions.

It remains unclear what the targets were, or whether anyone was hurt or wounded amid the incidents.

They came after an earlier explosion near Kyiv’s central train station, which a Ukrainian official said was caused by falling wreckage from a Russian missile that was downed by the country’s air defences.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said there were no casualties as a result of that incident.

Russian radio station Echo of Moscow dissolved

Echo of Moscow, one of a handful of critical news outlets remaining in Russia, has been dissolved by its board, according to the station’s editor.

The move came shortly after the prosecutor general’s office demanded that access to the station and the TV Rain online news channel be restricted because of their coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

IPC bans Russian and Belarus athletes from Winter Paralympics

Russian and Belarusian athletes are banned from competing in the Winter Paralympics in Beijing, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has announced in an apparent U-turn after the body earlier said they would be permitted to participate as neutrals.

“In order to preserve the integrity of these Games and the safety of all participants, we have decided to refuse the athlete entries from RPC and NPC Belarus,” the IPC said in a statement.

The move came after the IPC on Monday said Russian and Belarusian athletes would be allowed to compete in the games as neutrals, under the Paralympic flag, but would not be included in the medal table.

Hungary will not veto EU sanctions on Russia

Hungary will not veto European Union sanctions against Russia, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said, describing the unity of the 27-member bloc as paramount amid the war in Ukraine.

In an interview with news website, Orban said that Hungary’s ties with Russia had been “balanced and fair” until the very recent past, but the conflict has created a new situation.

He added that Budapest condemns the Kremlin’s decision to invade unequivocally. However, he said there was no reason to cut energy ties with Moscow.

UAE says Ukrainians eligible for visas on arrival, in apparent about-face

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) says Ukrainian nationals are eligible for visas on arrival in the Gulf Arab state, in an apparent reversal of a decision to suspend visa waivers to them amid war in their country.

Kyiv’s embassy in the UAE had previously said that Emirati authorities had temporarily suspended the waivers as of Tuesday.

“Concerning reports on the issuance of advance visas to Ukrainian nationals to enter the UAE, HE Faisal Lutfi, Assistant Undersecretary for Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, has announced that Ukrainian nationals continue to be eligible for visa on arrival to the UAE,” the Emirati foreign ministry said in a statement.

Pro-Russian separatists threaten Mariupol with strikes

Eduard Basurin, a pro-Russian separatist commander in Donetsk, is threatening to launch targeted strikes on Mariupol unless Ukrainian forces there surrender, according to the Interfax news agency.

Russia and Moscow-backed separatists say they have encircled the city of 430,000 people, located on the Azov Sea coast.

Bangladeshi sailor reportedly killed in attack on Black Sea port

A Bangladeshi sailor has been killed in a “rocket or bomb” attack on his vessel in the Black Sea port of Olvia, according to Bangladesh’s state shipping company.

The Banglar Samriddhi, a bulk carrier, arrived in Ukraine a day before Russia invaded, and has since been unable to leave. It was hit on Tuesday.

The ship’s remaining 28 crew members – all Bangladeshis – remain safe, an official at the Bangladesh Shipping Corporation told AFP news agency.

Wounded Russian troops arriving in Belarus: AP

The Associated Press, citing doctors and residents, has reported that Russian soldiers wounded in fighting around Kyiv are being ferried to a Belarusian hospital near the Ukraine border.

The agency said a string of seven bus-size Russian military ambulances – their windows blocked with grey shades – pulled up to the back entrance of the hospital in Belarus’s Gomel region on Tuesday evening.

Putin, Modi discuss plight of Indian students in Ukraine

Putin has held talks with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the urgent evacuation of Indian students trapped in Kharkiv.

During their video call, Putin said he had ordered Russian soldiers “to ensure the safe exit of Indian nationals from the armed conflict zone and their return to their homeland”, according to a Kremlin statement.

Read more here.

US says Russia blocks independent news outlets

The United States has accused Russia of launching a “full war on media freedom and the truth” by blocking independent news outlets and preventing Russians from hearing news of the invasion of Ukraine.

“Russia’s government is also throttling Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram platforms that tens of millions of Russia’s citizens rely on to access independent information and opinions,” the Department of State said in a statement.

Russian attacks hit schools, cathedral in Kharkiv

Russian military attacks hit three schools and a cathedral in the northeastern town of Kharkiv, local media reported, adding that several shops near the city council building were also damaged.

In Okhtyrka, dozens of “residential buildings” were destroyed as a result of artillery blasts, the reports said.

No injuries have been reported.

Kharkiv, Ukraine
The area near the regional administration building, which city officials said was hit by a missile attack, in central Kharkiv [Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy/Reuters]

Amazon CEO pledges support for Ukraine Inc is using its logistics capability to get supplies to those in need and cybersecurity expertise to help governments and companies as part of its support for Ukraine, Chief Executive Andy Jassy has said.

“Amazon stands with the people of Ukraine, and will continue to help,” Jassy said on Twitter. Amazon, which earlier this week pledged to donate up to $10m for humanitarian efforts, is the latest company to offer aid.

Local officials: Russian forces captured Kherson

“The [Russian] occupiers are in all parts of the city and are very dangerous,” Gennady Lakhuta, head of the regional administration, said on Telegram.

With this confirmation, Kherson becomes the first major urban centre to fall under Moscow’s control since it began its invasion.

Moody’s downgrades Russia’s ratings to B3

Credit rating agency Moody’s says it has downgraded Russia’s long-term issuer and senior unsecured debt ratings to B3 from Baa3, citing severe sanctions Western countries imposed on Russia.

The ratings remain on review for further downgrade, it said.

Japan’s PPIH says it will support 100 refugee families

Japan’s Pan Pacific International Holdings, formerly Don Quijote Holdings, says it will support 100 refugee families from Ukraine.

In a statement, PPIH said it will support 100 Ukrainian families approved by the Japanese government to enter Japan as refugees, providing them with financial support and job opportunities.

Ukraine setting up hotline for students trying to leave

Ukraine is setting up a hotline for “African, Asian and other students” who want to leave the country, Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba says.

“We are working intensively to ensure their safety & speed up their passage. Russia must stop its aggression which affects us all,” Kuleba said in a Twitter post.

One million refugees have fled Ukraine: UN

“In just seven days we have witnessed the exodus of one million refugees from Ukraine to neighbouring countries,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, said in a Twitter post.

The UN refugee agency’s (UNHCR) chief added: “For many millions more, inside Ukraine, it’s time for guns to fall silent, so that life-saving humanitarian assistance can be provided.”

Enerhodar residents block access to key nuclear plant

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Lviv, said residents of the southeastern town of Enerhodar have blocked the road to Europe’s largest nuclear power station in an apparent stand-off with Russian forces.

A resident told Al Jazeera: “The [Zaporizhzhia] nuclear plant is under secure protection, all the people are standing under Ukrainian flags. Nobody is going to surrender the city, our people are totally determined.”

Shelling and ‘terrifying fighting’ resume in southern Ukraine

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford, reporting from the city of Dnipro, in central Ukraine, says there have been “terrifying accounts” from people trying to leave the southern city of Mariupol, who have been describing “horrifically strong and terrifying fighting … this evening,” Stratford said.

There have also been accounts of “terrible shelling and mass casualties around the town of Volnovakha, north of Mariupol,” he said.

“There has been an attempt earlier in the day to try and organise some sort of corridor so that civilians could get out.”

Toyota suspends operations at Russian plant

Japan’s Toyota says it will suspend operations at its only factory in Russia and stop shipping vehicles to the country, citing “supply chain disruptions” linked to Moscow’s assault on Ukraine.

The carmaker said its Saint Petersburg plant produced about 80,000 vehicles last year, mainly for the Russian market and just a fraction of the 10.5 million Toyotas made worldwide.

Biden: UNGA vote highlights ‘global unity’

US President Joe Biden has said that the UN General Assembly’s vote to condemn Russia for invading Ukraine “demonstrates the extent of global outrage at Russia’s horrific assault on a sovereign neighbour and showcases unprecedented global unity”.

Russia billionaires move superyachts to Maldives

At least five superyachts owned by Russian billionaires were anchored or cruising in the Maldives, an Indian Ocean island nation that does not have an extradition treaty with the US, ship tracking data shows.

The yachts included the 88-metre Nirvana owned by Russia’s richest man, Vladimir Potanin.

According to Forbes, Germany seized Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov’s megayacht Dilbar – worth $600m – citing three sources in the yacht industry. Usmanov was on a list of billionaires to face sanctions from the EU.

Ukraine has thwarted Russia’s ‘sneaky’ plan: Zelenskyy

Zelenskyy says Ukraine has thwarted Russia’s “sneaky” invasion plans, adding he is proud of his country’s “heroic” resistance to Moscow’s attack.

“We are a nation that broke the enemy’s plans in a week. Plans written for years: sneaky, full of hatred for our country, our people,” he said in a video posted on Telegram.

Zelenskyy added that some 9,000 Russian soldiers had been killed since the invasion began.

Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify his claim.

People of colour struggle to escape Russian invasion

Non-white international students say they have faced racism while trying to leave Ukraine in the wake of Russia’s invasion.

Ukraine rejects claims of discrimination by border guards and says it operates on a “first-come, first-served” approach.

Read more here.

Member of OSCE monitoring mission killed in Kharkiv

The OSCE says a member of its special monitoring mission in Ukraine was killed on Tuesday amid shelling in Kharkiv.

In a statement, the OSCE named the victim as Maryna Fenina, saying she had died “getting supplies for her family in a city that has become a war zone”.

EU bars 7 Russian banks from SWIFT but not those in energy

The EU says it is excluding seven Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system – but did not include those handling energy payments.

Russia’s second-largest bank VTB, Bank Otkritie, Novikombank, Promsvyazbank, Bank Rossiya, Sovcombank and VEB will each be given 10 days to wind down their SWIFT operations, the EU said in its official journal.

SWIFT said that it would disconnect the seven Russian banks from their network on March 12, as required by EU regulations.

ICC prosecutor opens Ukraine investigation

The prosecutor of the ICC has confirmed he will immediately open an investigation into possible war crimes committed in Ukraine, following a request by 39 of the court’s member states.

“These referrals enable my office to proceed with opening an investigation into the situation in Ukraine from 21 November 2013 onwards, encompassing any past and present allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide committed on any part of the territory of Ukraine by any person,” Khan said.

World Bank halts all programmes in Russia, Belarus

The World Bank says it has stopped all programmes in Russia and Belarus with immediate effect, following the Russian invasion and “hostilities against the people of Ukraine”.

In a statement, the World Bank said it had not approved any new loans to or investments in Russia since 2014, the year Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

The bank said it had not approved any new lending to Belarus since mid-2020 when the US imposed sanctions on the country over a disputed presidential election.

Spotify closes its office in Russia

Audio-streaming platform Spotify says it has closed its office in Russia indefinitely in response to Moscow’s “unprovoked attack on Ukraine”.

“Our first priority over the past week has been the safety of our employees and to ensure that Spotify continues to serve as an important source of global and regional news at a time when access to information is more important than ever,” Spotify said in a statement.

Kherson mayor says Russian troops in the streets

Igor Kolykhayev, Kherson’s mayor, has said that Russian troops are in the city’s streets and have forced their way into its council building, according to a report by Reuters.

Kolykhayev urged Russian soldiers not to shoot civilians and called on residents to walk through the streets only in daylight and in ones and twos. “We do not have the Armed Forces in the city, only civilians and people who want to LIVE here!” he said in a statement.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Kherson is under Russian soldiers’ “complete control” and the city’s civilian infrastructure, facilities and transport are operating as usual with no shortages of any essential goods.

Ukraine’s government had earlier played down reports that Kherson had fallen to Russia.

Yellen: US will address potential sources of leakages in Russia sanctions

The US will continue to address potential sources of “leakages” in the sweeping sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen has said.

Yellen said the hard sanctions slapped on Russia were having a significant impact, as reflected in the rouble’s sharp fall. Asked whether energy sanctions could follow, she said nothing was off the table with regard to sanctions.

Mercedes-Benz halts Russia exports

Mercedes-Benz says it is suspending vehicle exports to Russia and local production in the country, becoming the latest carmaker to respond to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Mercedes-Benz will suspend the export of passenger cars and vans to Russia as well as the local manufacturing in Russia until further notice,” it said in a statement.

German rivals BMW and Volkswagen made similar announcements earlier this week as Western companies withdraw from sanctions-hit Russia.

INTERACTIVE - Sanctions on Russia SWIFT payment network
(Al Jazeera)

Russian advance on Kyiv ‘stalled’: Pentagon

The Russian military’s push towards Kyiv “remains stalled”, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has said.

“From our best estimates, [Russian forces] have not made any appreciable progress geographically speaking, in the last 24 to 36 hours,” Kirby told reporters.

He said the Pentagon believes the advance has slowed because Russian forces are regrouping in the face of unanticipated logistical challenges and Ukrainian resistance.

US postpones ballistic missile test: Pentagon

The Pentagon says the US has postponed an intercontinental ballistic missile test to avoid escalation with Russia.

“In an effort to demonstrate that we have no intention in engaging in any actions that can be misunderstood or misconstrued, the secretary of defence has directed that our Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile test launch scheduled for this week to be postponed,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

“We did not take this decision lightly, but instead to demonstrate that we are a responsible nuclear power.”

Ukraine’s civilian toll 227 dead, 525 injured: UN

The UN human rights office says 227 civilians have been killed and 525 others injured in Ukraine from the start of the Russian assault to midnight March 1.

“Most of these casualties were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multi-launch rocket systems, and air strikes,” it said in a statement issued in Geneva.

It added that the true toll is believed to be “considerably higher”, due to reporting delays in areas where intensive hostilities have taken place. Meanwhile, more than 870,000 people have fled Ukraine seeking safety in other countries, according to the UNHCR.

Blast near Kyiv station caused by falling downed Russian missile

An explosion near Kyiv’s central train station was caused by falling wreckage from a Russian missile that was downed by Ukrainian air defence, interior ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko says.

The falling debris hit a heating pipe, causing the blast, but far less damage and casualties than if the missile had hit its target in central Kyiv, he said online, without detailing if anyone had been hurt in the explosion.

The station was being used to evacuate thousands of women and children, Ukraine’s state-run railway company Ukrzaliznytsya said.

Kyiv train station
People wait to board an evacuation train from Kyiv to Lviv, at Kyiv central train station [File: Gleb Garanich/Reuters]

Welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Ukraine-Russia crisis.

Read all the updates from Wednesday, March 2, here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies